Tag Archives: Election 2012

The Bible…I’m Not So Sure It Means What You Think It Means

” [Scripture] has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter.  It reveals the principles by which God judges us; and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. ”

So says the Baptist Faith and Message about the Bible…all three versions–1925, 1963 and 2000.  Even the much debated rewrite of this section in 2000 didn’t change this core description of the Scriptures.  There was much to quibble over in 2000 among Baptists, of whose number I was among then.  Was the Bible “God’s revelation” or “the record of God’s revelation” of himself to humankind?  Was Christ merely the “focus of divine revelation”  or was he the “criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted?”  Quite frankly, since I no longer have a dog in the fight, it’s fun to kick those thoughts around now and again, but that’s not my point here.

It seems Scripture references have been bandied about quite a bit in recent days and weeks as the election season his full song and everyone wants to try to moralize his or her candidate’s position vis-à-vis the “Christian foundations” this nation is based on.  Right.  Anyway, everybody wants the Bible (and Jesus) on their side.  Whether trying to cast Jesus as a socialist or justifying free markets on personal responsibility, everyone wants to be able to say they have the Bible on their side because, let’s face it, God is a pretty heavy hitter.  I mean, an endorsement from the Most High would go a long way in swaying American voters, right?

This is ridiculous.  When the whole of Scripture is viewed as a cohesive unit (as it should be) it is not a history book, or a science book, or an economics book, or even an ethics book.  There are elements of those topics and then some in the Scriptures but that’s because they are a natural part of our human existence, not because they are exhaustively addressed there.  The Scriptures are about God reconciling a fallen world to himself through Jesus Christ.  Period.  Consider:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors,as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin[a] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5.17-21)

On its face, this is what the BF&M seems to be getting at but, having been written by Baptists who take pride in autonomy and not having to agree even to disagree I don’t know what they would say about it now.  While the author was undoubtedly thinking of his own work, I believe the closing statement of St. John’s Gospel could be applied to the entire canon of Scripture: “But these [things] are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

May God have mercy on our souls for using the precious gift of his Word as a bludgeon for political battles instead of a balm of healing for those who desperately need reconciliation.

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Don’t Steal…the Government Hates Competition

“Judge not, lest ye be judged,” the Authorized Version says in Matthew 7.  We’ve all heard this saying at some time or other.  I’ve usually heard it when someone is criticizing someone else’s lifestyle choices–usually referring to moral issues.  Oftentimes this is a function of judgmental moralists on the right being pitted (or pitting themselves) against more libertine individuals often on the left.  This is not always the case but this is the context I’ve most often seen this verse used.

Yesterday, Mitt Romney released his tax returns for the past few years.  In 2010 and 2011, Romney earned approximately $42 million, virtually all from capital gains (obviously long term not short term, a distinction that is important) and not wages.  In other words, his income came from investments.  Nothing in the returns suggests Romney has done or is doing anything illegal or “cooking the books.”  ABC News calculates that Romney’s income puts him in the top 0.006%, not just the top 1% (an obvious stir of the class warfare pot).  Interestingly, his income compares more favorably to professional athletes and Hollywood’s elite than it does to Wall Street CEO’s (read: the former is paid far more than the latter).

In all of the hoopla, the biggest complaint has been that Romney doesn’t pay enough in taxes.  He averaged about 14.5% over ’10-’11 in federal taxes.  This along with Warren Buffett’s assertion that his secretary pays a higher tax rate than he does has made the topic of tax rates a contentious one, especially among the class warriors who use socioeconomic differences to divide people for their political benefit.  The advantages of lower long-term capital gains rates extend to anyone who has money in a retirement fund or investments, not just the very wealthy and these rates encourage long-term (duh) investment instead of short-term speculation (which some people still do but pay a higher rate for it).  This is not to mention that capital gains have already been taxed at the corporate level (at about 40%, the highest rate among industrialized nations).

But I’m not writing to defend investment returns or wealthy people or even capitalism (all of which I would defend).  I’m going a different direction.  Joe Biden famously (or infamously) said that paying taxes is patriotic.  Now you can interpret that how you want, but the assumption is that the middle class need help (we need to “take money and put it back in the pockets of middle class people.”)  The fundamental flaw is that this is the very definition of theft.  If we’re supposed to be paying more in taxes to help those who need help, maybe we should encourage people to give more to charities that actually meet people at their point of need. Unfortunately for Biden, this is apparently a foreign concept.  For tax years 1998-2007 the Bidens gave $3,690 to charity.  That’s ten years at about $370 per year (and that’s after the Biden’s upped their charitable giving from $120 in 1999 to $995 in 2007) out of an average adjusted income of about $250,000 per year.  That comes to about 0.15%.  Romney gave approximately $7 million to charity, over half of which went to his church.

“Whoa, now!” you may say.  “Weren’t you just talking about Matthew 7 and not judging and all that?”  Yes, I was.  I suggest we go back to Matthew 7 when we begin to talk about people and their money.  The problem with “Judge not lest ye be judged” is that half of the saying is missing.  The rest of the passage in the TNIV says “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  In other words, when you pronounce judgment on others, the standard you use against them is the standard that’s going to be used on you.

The narrative the class warriors want to tell is that the wealthy don’t care and don’t give to help anyone because they don’t pay their fair share in taxes.  But digging deeper shows, at least in this instance, that Romney is far more generous than Biden.  However, even that comparison is not my point.  My point is that it’s none of your of my business how much money Mitt Romney or Barack Obama or Warren Buffett or Bill Gates has or how each one made his money (so long as it was legally gained, obviously) or what they do with their money.  It’s their money.  Not the government’s.  We’d all be a lot better off if we learned to  respect all of the property rights of others.

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Between Two Evils Should Not Be an Option

I’ve already written on the “unelectability” of the GOP field here.  What hit me recently is how patent a double standard it is for GOP rank and file to say they just want Obama out of office and yet they have such a visceral aversion to a Ron Paul running for president.

In an op-ed from this week, commentator Charles Krauthammer unilaterally narrowed the Iowa caucus race down to Mitt and Newt, both of which are “significantly flawed.”  But for Krauthammer and others like him these flaws are outweighed by the need for someone, anyone, to beat Barack Obama in 2012.  Krauthammer concludes, “If Obama wins, he will take the country to a place from which it will not be able to return (which is precisely his own objective for a second term).  Every conservative has thus to ask himself two questions: Who is more likely to prevent that second term? And who, if elected, is less likely to unpleasantly surprise?”  Given Newt’s and Mitt’s flaws, I’m not convinced that either of them won’t “take the country to a place from which it will not be able to return”!

This singular goal of unseating the incumbent president is not new.  Ever since he took office (if not before), the Republican Party has been trying to devise a means of getting Obama out of office.  With this mindset presumably most if not all card-toting Republicans would vote for a pond scum (an improvement over most politicians to begin with) so long as it has and (R) by its name.  If the goal is simply to unseat Obama, why does it matter who the candidate is? If, as I’ve argued before, the GOP field is unelectable without the votes of Ron Paul’s supporters, why won’t all the GOP rank and file get behind Ron Paul?

With the loyal grassroots base Paul has built up, the organization is in place to rival Obama’s ubiquity in all types of media.  Paul has broader support among independents and could even draw some votes from clear-thinking Democrats.  With even the nominal support of the Republican Party, hordes of Republicans would vote for him just because he has the (R) next to his name.  Add all of this together – Ron Paul’s loyal base, rank and file Republicans who simply want to fire Obama, independents and Democrats who would vote for Ron Paul – and you get the best chance the GOP has of winning the presidency in 2012, not to mention this country’s best chance to get back into shape economically and diplomatically.

This won’t happen though because the GOP doesn’t want to change anything.  Newt and Mitt are both big government Republicans who, like the party leadership, don’t like to be the ones not in control.  They don’t care about reducing the deficit or debt.  They don’t care to bring home thousands of troops that are needlessly scattered around the globe while our border sits largely unprotected.  They don’t care to tackle one of the main sources of our economic problems, the Fed.  Ron Paul wants to reduce the bureaucracy.  The GOP establishment just wants to be the ones in control of it, still financing the present on the backs of future generations.

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